Even at 10 Jim Clark was at the wheel of a car – to the alarm of his sisters.
In 1965 Dessin de Boivent Duffar portrayed the future grand prix driver in Champion magazine, with one of the family cars. The Austin Seven had been an expedient in wartime. Like everybody else between 1939 and 1945, Clark’s father had set his big car aside, decommissioning his 1930s Alvis Speed Twenty. Its unused petrol ration filled the tank of the small economical Austin for farm journeys.
Jim drove tractors in fields. Like most mechanically minded boys he could easily learn how to do it so also took to driving the car on rutted farm tracks. It was not quite so easy after the big Alvis returned to service in 1946. Jim Clark was not tall. Even when grown-up he was only 5ft 7¼in and 150lbs. To get the sporty Alvis with its long bonnet and huge headlamps moving he pressed the clutch, selected first gear, then when the car set off quickly jumped up to the driving seat to see out. Steering was easy and he could control speed with the hand throttle.
Unfortunately on one occasion reversing out of the garage his sleeve caught on the hand throttle and before he could leap back down to reach the clutch and brake, the car hit a wall. The Alvis was strong, the damage did not amount to much but he kept the first accident of his driving career secret for years.
Guests at a family occasion noticed the Alvis apparently driverless leaving home. It was Jim, completely invisible from behind, but father reassured the guests that he’d be back soon. Jim Clark’s first paid driving job was at sixpence an hour on a tractor at harvest time. He was still only 10. His talent for car control won him a lifetime of racing victories, two world championships and the Indianapolis 500.